There is alot to be said for a life of simplicity. I quite enjoy being my own cruise director these days.
Last weekend I was able to catch up with some old friends and acquaintances from high school, and even meet people that I am distantly “related” to, but had never met. If your family lives in a small town for very long, you will find yourself connected to random people in more ways than you know, and this will happen with or without your direct participation. I saw old track teammates, talked to childhood playmates, met people’s husbands, all of that. My very popular friend James was back in town visiting from Japan and had this little party to get his friends together. He’s the only person I actually know over there, (though I’ve made a few pen pals that I plan to eventually meet), so of course I went out to say hello while he was here. Festivities were held at the bar at the Ramada Inn, which is adjacent to the Kmart, if that tells you anything about my hometown. (I think it isn’t long before there are bars located IN the big-box stores, and then you won’t ever need to leave…) One of the lovely things about going out in a small midwestern town is that no one expects you to order signature martinis or artisan beers, so a perfectly good time can be had with just one $10 bill and not even a whiff of hipster irony.
While James is the type of person to call everyone he knows and get them together on the rare occasion when he is back at home, I’ve traditionally been the type of person to sneak into town only for Christmas, and barely leave the house while I was here. I could do that then, because I was only ever here for a week at a time. Until now, for me, my high school years have existed in a bubble. At first I tried to forget about that time and distance myself from it completely. I was not happy with who I had been, or with how those years had failed to measure up to the John Hughes film catalogue. Now that there is a good decade and a half separating me from my Aqua-net hairstyle and peg-legged jeans, I’ve actually developed some nostalgia for those years. I found that I’m curious about my old classmates, and I love seeing what they look like as grown-ups… how their personalities have changed and how they have stayed the same…where their paths have taken them. I wish that I hadn’t been so shy and self-conscious back then, as I would have liked to get to know some of these people better. It is astounding how many people there are in this world, and each one of them has a unique story to tell – even in a small town where not a lot seems to happen. People are interesting. Their lives are interesting.
Operation “Teach In Tokyo” is still on and moving full speed ahead. I spent a couple of weeks glued to the coverage of the earthquake/tsunami/radiation disaster trifecta, and for a while it made me hold off on buying my plane ticket. I wondered if I was about to throw away hundreds of dollars on a flight only to have a nuclear meltdown occur which would then cause the government to restrict travel to Japan. Nevermind the health risks of being near a leaking nuclear reactor, with low levels of radiation leaching into the air, the water, and the food supply. Regardless of the reasonable concerns, I believe in my core that all will be well 6 weeks from now and that I will still be able to go, so it seemed stupid to keep putting off buying the flight. I went ahead and pulled the trigger. I have no desire to change my plans, and I stubbornly refuse to think that the worst-case scenario will happen. I have no “plan-b country,” as a friend of mine casually inquired yesterday. The way I see it, conditions will never be ideal – you just commit, and once you’ve done so, stay the course…it will all work out in the end.